If you think of a stereotypical miner — or mining equipment — your adjective of choice might not be “bubbly.” But air bubbles, and “froth flotation,” are key to the work of Dr. Charlotte Gibson, BSc’09, PhD’16, a new Queen’s Engineering faculty member in the Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining.

Professor Gibson’s key research interest is mineral processing of raw materials critical to the development of battery technology. She finds mineral concentration by flotation is a fascinating process. “Most people are not aware that much of the world’s copper, nickel, zinc and lead is recovered from rocks using air bubbles,” she said.

Dr Charlotte Gibson frothy bubbles

Gibson is an alumna of the mining faculty: she received her BSc in Mining Engineering before taking her academic career out east to earn an architecture degree from Dalhousie University, and finally back to Queen’s to earn her PhD. She began as Assistant Professor in the Fall 2020 courses MINE 201 (Introduction to Mining and Mineral Processing) and APSC 151 (Earth Systems Engineering).

She sees many interesting developments coming to her field of study in the future, and vision within research and industry for a more environmentally sound approach to mining. “The mining industry is currently shifting towards zero carbon emissions, waste reuse and reprocessing, and energy and water-use reduction,” she said. “This shift requires a multidisciplinary approach and the contribution of people from diverse backgrounds across all engineering disciplines.”

“Mineral processing research is moving toward waste re-purposing, and the use of big data and artificial intelligence for better process control and process development.”

Whether inspiring students in the classroom or improving mining processes essential to our daily lives, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science is excited to welcome Professor Gibson back to Queen’s.